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Land Bank of the Philippines v De Leon (2003)

Corona, J.
Re: Appeals
DOCTRINE
A petition for review (not an ordinary appeal) is the proper mode of appeal from judgments of
Special Agrarian Courts.
Nonetheless, this ruling (rule of procedure affecting substantive right) shall be applied
prospectively. It would be unjust to apply a new doctrine to a pending case involving a party who
already invoked a contrary view and who acted in good faith thereon prior to the issuance of said
doctrine.
FACTS
Respondent Spouses De Leon filed a petition to fix the just compensation of a parcel of land
before RTC, acting as a Special Agrarian Court. The agrarian Court rendered summary judgment
fixing the compensation of the subject property.
Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) both filed
separate appeals using different modes. DAR filed a petition for review while LBP
interposed an ordinary appeal by filing a notice of appeal.
CA: DARs petition for review was assigned to the Special Third Division of the Court of
Appeals while LBPs ordinary appeal was assigned to the Fourth Division of the same
court.
The Special third division of CA gave due course to the petition for review and partially
reconsidered it. Meanwhile, CAs 4th division dismissed LBPs ordinary appeal
primarily holding that LBP availed of the wrong appeal.
SC: LBP file a petition for review before SC. SC affirmed CAs decision.
Section 60 of RA 6657 (The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law) is clear in
providing petition for review as the appropriate mode of appeal from decisions
of Special Agrarian Courts. Section 61 (the provision on which LBP bases its
argument that ordinary appeal is the correct mode of appeal from decisions of
Special Agrarian Courts) merely makes a general reference to the Rules of
Court and does not categorically prescribe ordinary appeal as the correct way
of questioning decisions of Special Agrarian Courts. Thus, we interpreted
Section 61 to mean that the specific rules for petitions for review in the Rules of
Court and other relevant procedures of appeals shall be followed in appealed
decisions of Special Agrarian Courts.
LBP filed a motion for reconsideration and supplement to the motion for reconsideration
reiterating its claim in the petition for review that Section 60 of RA 6657 is unconstitutional. LBP
still maintains that a legislative act like Section 60 infringes on the exclusive rule-making power
of this Court in violation of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
In the event that said argument is again rejected, LBP pleads that the
subject Decision should at least be given prospective application
considering that more than 60 similar agrarian cases filed by LBP via
ordinary appeal before the Court of Appeals are in danger of being
dismissed outright on technical grounds on account of our ruling herein.
This, according to LBP, will wreak financial havoc not only on LBP as the financial
intermediary of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program but also on the national
treasury and the already depressed economic condition of our country. Thus, in the

interest of fair play, equity and justice, LBP stresses the need for the rules to be relaxed so
as to give substantial consideration to the appealed cases.
ISSUE
Whether this SC decision (on the proper mode of appeal of decisions by Special
Agrarian Court) shall have retroactive effect on the 60 similar agrarian cases
pending before CA.
HELD: No, the decision shall only have prospective application.
Our Decision herein will be a landmark ruling on the proper way to appeal decisions of Special
Agrarian Courts. Before this case reached us, LBP had no authoritative guideline on how to appeal
decisions of Special Agrarian Courts considering the seemingly conflicting provisions of Section
60 and 61 of RA 6657.
On the strength of Land Bank of the Philippines vs. Hon. Feliciano
Buenaventura, penned by Associate Justice Salvador Valdez, Jr. of the Court of
Appeals, certain decisions of the appellate court held that an ordinary appeal is the
proper mode.
On the other hand, a decision of the same court, penned by Associate Justice Romeo
Brawner and subject of the instant review, held that the proper mode of appeal is a
petition for review. In another case, the Court of Appeals also entertained an appeal by
the DAR filed as a petition for review.
On account of the absence of jurisprudence interpreting Sections 60 and 61 of RA 6657
regarding the proper way to appeal decisions of Special Agrarian Courts as well as the conflicting
decisions of the Court of Appeals thereon, LBP cannot be blamed for availing of the
wrong mode. Based on its own interpretation and reliance on the Buenaventura ruling, LBP
acted on the mistaken belief that an ordinary appeal is the appropriate manner to question
decisions of Special Agrarian Courts.
Hence, in the light of the aforementioned circumstances, we find it proper to
emphasize the prospective application of our Decision dated September 10, 2002.
A prospective application of our Decision is not only grounded on equity and fair
play but also based on the constitutional tenet that rules of procedure shall not
impair substantive rights.
We hold that our Decision, declaring a petition for review as the proper mode of
appeal from judgments of Special Agrarian Courts, is a rule of procedure which
affects substantive rights. If our ruling is given retroactive application, it will prejudice LBPs
right to appeal because pending appeals in the Court of Appeals will be dismissed outright
on mere technicality thereby sacrificing the substantial merits thereof. It would be unjust to apply
a new doctrine to a pending case involving a party who already invoked a contrary view and who
acted in good faith thereon prior to the issuance of said doctrine.